My father has always been a picky eater. He doesn’t like bold flavors at all, so we did not have the joy of trying different foods as kids. He liked things to be overcooked and unfortunately for us, that meant the rest of us had to eat our dinners that way too.
He would cook steaks so well that they were tough to chew. I didn’t know how good a steak could be because ours were tough and burned.
The Joy of Ketchup
Ketchup is a wonderful invention. It was created to enhance the flavor quality of certain foods but wasn’t ever intended to be used with every item on your plate. But in our house, it was a necessity!
The only way to make some of Dad’s overcooked food palatable was to cover it with ketchup.
We put it on overcooked steak, mashed potatoes, and even the plain white rice he would cook! What was intended to be an enhancement to the dinner experience became a necessity in order to hide the underlying fact that the food was terrible.
The Ketchup of the Workplace
There once was a company called Lomo Ralé Inc. The culture was very fragmented there:
- Departments worked in silos
- Management dictated decisions rather than collaborating with employees
- The people were both over-worked and under-equipped
- The environment was a stressful place for employees
As a result of these conditions, employees only gave the effort that they were required to give. There was no reason to give any extra effort. For most of the frontline employees at Lomo Ralé, the company seemed to drain the life out of them.
Then the CEO had read an expert’s book about what incentive awards could do to morale in the office. She gathered her executive team together and came up with a program that would allow the employees to take short breaks in order to play games and also provide them with plaques and other awards for strong performance.
She was convinced that this would fix the morale issue.
Short Shelf Life
The program was implemented quickly and there was an immediate boost to the energy level in the office. Employees smiled more and seemed to actually enjoy themselves. That feeling slowly faded over time because the games and awards didn’t change the underlying work conditions.
Employees still did not feel like the managers had their best interests in mind. Decisions were still dictated downward. The “steak” of the company was still overcooked. The “ketchup” that management had thrown on top was only a mask for what was really underneath.
Cooking a Better Steak
The situation at Lomo Ralé is an all-too-common occurrence. Managers throw a bunch of “ketchup” on top of a burnt “steak” and wonder why the best people in the organization leave.
For sustained performance, leaders have to cook a better steak – they have to provide a better environment for their people.
Turning Around a Culture
As John Maxwell said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” It’s up to you to make the change for your people, no matter where you are in the organization.
Here are some tips for turning around the culture of your organization.
- Value your people. People don’t leave organizations, they leave companies because of people. Be the leader that they know you value them. Spend time with your people. Learn about their personal lives (within reason, of course). Stand up for them if they have a suggestion for an improved process. Be their champion and they will champion you. Nothing keeps a stressed group of people together better than people they know value them.
- Include your people in the change. Have discussions with your people to find out what they would do to improve productivity and morale. Take the best of their ideas and do everything in your power to make them happen. Recognize them for their contributions. If they see that they can make a difference, they will want to continue making a difference.
- Develop your people. Not many people want to be stuck without the hope of improving. Be a proponent of additional training, special projects, and other ways to help your people develop. Their improvement will only boost the team’s capabilities.
So how much ketchup have your employees been putting on what you have been serving up? Have you known that your cooking might be up to par? What can you do to change the recipe of your leadership so that people start loving what you serve? I would love to hear your thoughts!
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